Brent falls below $90/bbl, pausing rally, on weaker demand outlook

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Global benchmark Brent crude oil fell below $90 a barrel on Thursday in volatile trade, halting a near two-week rally, on multiple signals warning of weaker demand in the coming months.

Brent crude futures settled 68 cents, or 0.8%, lower at $89.92 a barrel, after trading between $89.46 and $90.89.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) futures finished down 67 cents, or 0.8%, at $86.67 a barrel, after trading between $86.39 and $87.74.

Thursday’s fall came after nine straight sessions of gains in WTI and seven straight gains in Brent.

Prices had also spiked earlier in the week after Saudi Arabia and Russia, the world’s top two oil exporters, extended voluntary supply cuts to the year-end. These were on top of the April cuts agreed by several OPEC+ producers running to the end of 2024.

“Crude futures are feeling some corrective pressure from a new high in the U.S. Dollar Index as well as more weakening economic numbers from the euro zone, where economic activity grew by 0.1% vs the 0.3% expected,” said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial.

The dollar gained, pushing the yen to a 10-month low and driving the euro and sterling to their weakest levels in three months, as investors placed their bets on a still-resilient U.S. economy. A stronger dollar boosts the cost of greenback-denominated oil purchases for holders of other currencies.

“As I begin to look down the road a bit there are signals saying hold up,” said John Kilduff, partner with Again Capital.

Market participants also digested mixed data from China. Overall exports fell 8.8% in August year on year and imports contracted 7.3%. But crude imports surged 30.9%.

“The wind has been taken out of the bulls’ sail overnight by rising Chinese product exports last month, albeit crude oil imports rose,” PVM Oil analyst Tamas Varga said.

Concerns about rising oil output from Iran and Venezuela, which could balance out a portion on cuts from Saudi and Russia, kept a lid on the market as well.

U.S. demand, however, remained strong, as crude oil stockpiles drew down by 6.3 million barrels last week, falling for a fourth consecutive week and down over 6% in the last month, government data showed. [EIA/S]

“At present, it is really difficult for us to see any negative factors due to supply constraints,” said CMC Markets’ Shanghai-based analyst Leon Li.

“However, we need to consider possible demand risks such as in the fourth quarter, the market could slow into an off-peak season for oil consumption after summer demand ends.”

(Reporting by Erwin Seba in Houston; Additional reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in Houston; Ahmad Ghaddar in London; Trixie Yap in SingaporeEditing by Marguerita Choy, Frances Kerry, Nick Macfie)